Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wait Until Everything is Perfect, THEN Live Your Life!

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day. He is excited to become a writer, and he's very talented. He told me that he'd been walking along Maroon Creek Road and he'd come across a man and fallen into conversation with him. This man was a writer, and he told my friend that he lived in a little house with no running water and no bathroom on the edge of the river, where he did nothing but write every day. He'd written several screen plays and several novels, and lived that sort of idyllic, idyosynchratic life of the eccentric writer.

I thought about this as I walked down to the laundry room to get on the internet and write a post. I thought about how many times in my life I'd pictured what things could be like if they were perfect.

A lot of us thing that once the house is clean, we can sit down and write that story we've always meant to, or once the lawn is mowed, we can spend some time playing with the kids, or once the laundry is done, we can finally read that book that's been gathering dust on the side table.

And that once we make our money, and we have enough in savings, we can do the thing we were meant to do.

I don't think that life is meant to be like that. I think that life is passing us by at warp speed. And I think that how you reach for the things you wish for in life, every day, is what living life is about.

If you wait to write the great American novel until you've paid all your bills, "succeeded", you have six months of savings, your kids room is clean and you've caught up on the laundry, and you have a roast in the oven, or until you have succeeded in life in the way that society thinks you aught, so you've proven that you can, and then, with your savings, you buy a second home and spend three months in your cabin by the river, at which time, you will uncork your creativity and let your passion flow, you are missing your life.

It sure would be nice to be independently wealthy and be able to afford that little piece of property, and take some time out of your life to do the creative thing that you wish you could do for a living. But I think if you wait for that day, you will be waiting for a very, very long time.

And that's not to say that you should just chuck it all and go live in that cabin by the stream with no bathroom and no running water. That's to say that nows as good a time as any to stick your toe in.

What would happen if you let the laundry go for one more day and indulged yourself in an hour of journaling? What would happen if you decided that your "perfect writer's den" was the kitchen table, and the soundtrack of your peace and quiet was your children playing with Legos?

I think about this when I think of skiing as well... we search for the perfect turn, and sometimes, we hang on to our old turn because we love the safety and security of it so much... we are so sure that the next one will be the good one if we can just hang on to this one long enough and get ready, be totally and completely prepared for that next turn, and by the time we've triple checked everything, we've missed our opportunity, the next turn has come and gone, there's a tree in the way and its time to make a drastic, quick move to avoid catastrophe.

What if, in life, as in skiing, we let each "should have" go as the turn passes us, what if we kept moving into the future, reaching for what was working, and letting the ski glide under our bodies, letting the snow spray, letting the sun hit our faces, what if we let the pen glide under our hands and the knitting needles fly at the strangest times, in the most inopportune moments, because we don't care about the time and place being right, we care more about living.

What if we fell in love even though it seemed like a ridiculous thing to do? I missed you guys. Its good to be back. Thanks for waiting for me.

Much love,

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas! Posting will resume

Merry Christmas! Posting will resume soon! Interntet is coming to my house today! Its been a lonng process. Thanks for your patience! Have a bea

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Go Big With Your Heart: How Will it Work?

So the second part to this story takes us to Colorado. Where I've moved. I've been living here for two months without ANY of my five kids, or Mike. Its been hard on all of us. My kids miss me, they miss Mike, and they miss Mike's kids. I miss all of them, my heart is in Bozeman and in Whitefish, and I spend a LOT of time on the phone with Ethan and Bodhi and Mike and his kids.

And its just not enough. Because I love them all fiercely. It was hard, we have hit a few big bumps. We took a few steps back along the way to make sure that what we were doing was smart, healthy and right. Its tough to be in a long distance relationship. We split up for a few days a couple of weeks ago. And we both realized in those few days that what we have is worth any distance.

Mike is up for a great International Medicine job. If he gets this job, he'll be around the world in Africa every other month. If I make the demo team, I'm going to travel 60 days out of the year. We are just right for each other. And if we are going to make this work, we have to be completely dedicated to its success.

We have to be willing to go big with our hearts. To commit. To huck. To make a soft space for the other to land. Mike met me in Bozeman over the Thanksgiving holiday to help me drive my stuff down to Aspen, and to see this crazy world I live in. To meet my friends, my trainers, and to look at the schools and the ranch. Because we don't know how this is going to work, but we know we need to eventually be together, we are opening all the doors we can. That includes Mike looking at what it would be like for he and his kids to possibly live in Aspen one day. That includes me looking at Whitefish for the summers at least.

Its complicated. People don't believe it will work. But we have chosen not to plot the finish. We have chosen to be dedicated to growing our family, our love, our relationship, and trusting that the path will open that will allow our family of seven to be together one day.

To do that, Mike and I worked hard during the week he was here to learn what triggers or concerns each of us had. There has to be a huge amount of trust, and both of us have been hurt badly in the past. And we've hurt others.

Here is what we came up with: Its our job to respect the position of our other. In other words, Its my job to "hold space" for Mike. Not like "How would Mike feel if he were here?" But he is here. Always. In this space that I hold for him.

And so, part of my job is to make sure that people know that I'm with Mike. That I respect that position, and that I need the help of the people in my life to respect that position as well. And I think this is where lots of us fall down.

I can put it out there, "I have a boyfriend." And if a guy chooses to flirt with me anyway, well that's his problem, not mine. But that's not entirely accurate. Because my job in this case is to not only respect Mike's position, but to make sure that others respect it too. And if they don't I have the choice of either making sure that they do, or removing myself. Because someone who is not going to respect the fact that I am with Mike is not respecting me.

And Mike is doing the same thing in Whitefish. And in this way, we stay connected. We feel connected. So far, it has worked well. We have worked through some tough jealous times, a feeling that neither of us likes to have. But we both want the same thing. We want a strong, healthy, brave, loving, patient family. We want a family that feels like a nest. And that example for our kids starts with us.

So we are willing to do what is hard. Because even though we don't get to hug and smile and play together right now, our hearts are still connected. I feel those kids in Whitefish. I miss them terribly. Just like I miss my kids in Bozeman. But we will be together soon, and when we are, it is truly magic like none I've ever felt.

Michael, I'm grateful for you. I want to see your light shine as bright as it can shine. And I want to help you make our kids' lights shine like highbeams across the wild. Thank you for your bravery and your love. You make me feel like I can fly.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Go Big With Your Heart: How we met.

A lot of people ask me how this is going to work. How in the world are Mike and I going to be a couple when he lives up near the Canadian border in Whitefish, Montana, and I live 20 hours south of him in Aspen, Colorado.

And the answer to this question, like so many others in my life is, "I don't know." I don't know how its going to work. I know that we can tackle the bumps as they come, and that it will only work if we are both totally committed to being open, communicative, and willing to work through the tough stuff.

And what's really amazing is... we are.

I want to tell you the story of how we met, because I think it sheds light on what's at stake, and on what's possible. Its worth fighting for, for sure.

Mike has been reading my blog for about a year and a half. He knew that I was a performance coach, and he's an ambitious, energetic, athletic guy who wanted to do "it" better. So he emailed me off my blog and asked for some coaching. I was psyched, as you all know, money is tight, and every gig helps. I love to coach, and so coaching someone over the internet seemed like a great plan.

We emailed back and forth a few times, but we both got busy and our schedules didn't mesh up. Eventually, he made a friend request of me on Facebook, and I remember looking through his photos. All his pictures are of him outside with his kids, outside skiing or climbing, taking rescue courses, or working at the Pheriche Aid Station in Nepal (one of my favorite places on the planet).

I remember seeing a picture of his eldest son, Cyrus, hanging out of his tent, with wild hair and a big smile, and I remember a picture of all three of his kids hanging all over him and laughing outside. I thought to myself, man, this is the kind of thing that I want. Not this man, because that would be silly, but someday, I hope to find a love like this, someone who is strong and can take his kids outside and be with them and be patient and happy, be close, and bonded and adventurous, and teach my kids with me to live a life outside, full and free and happy.

I remember thinking to myself that he looked a little bit like a Patagonia catalogue, and that its dangerous to dream, to wish, to think you see what you want. "Oh, Kate." I thought to myself. "Don't wish for what you can't have. That's not how it works out for you." And so, I erased him. From my memory. Completely.

About four months later, I was healing from a broken heart, and I sat down and I wrote a list. I wrote what I wanted in my relationships. Not a physical description, because that just doesn't matter to me. But what kind of person. My list went something like this:

"I want someone who is not afraid to love. I want someone who wants to go big with his heart, who is excited, psyched to be with me. I want to be with someone who loves my kids as much as they love me. I want to be with someone who is psyched to see me fly, who puts wind in MY sails, and who lets me put wind in his as well. I want to be with someone who wants to live a life of wild adventure, but to whom love is the baseline that drives that adventure. I want to be with someone who wants to live outside, who wants to help me teach my kids to live outside, I want someone who cares about art and books and music, I want someone who can play in the snow and in the water and who can sleep outside...." The list went on and on like this.

I looked at my list when I was done writing, and realized, wow. I am going to be single for a very long time. And I was okay with that. I felt peace with that decision, because I finally knew and acknowledged that I didn't want anything less than that. I want a big love. I want a big family. And I'm not willing to have less than that.

I should have written "But in five or six months." at the bottom.

Four days later, I was answering my Facebook email, which is woefully neglected. I had four emails from some guy, Michael, which were one month apart exactly. Who was this guy? He had sent me a link from some singer, Lisa Hannigan, thinking I might like the style of one of her songs... and I had listened to it previously, and liked the music, but I hadn't actually LISTENED to it. The song was called "I'd like to meet you.". You can listen to it here while you roll your eyes at me.

I was trying to figure out who this guy was... his last email had said, "I'm bummed you are leaving the state." and I thought, I don't even know who you are, why would you be bummed? So I clicked on his profile, and I realized... HEY, this was that coaching client guy! This is the camping guy! I remembered seeing a photo where he was looking at the camera, maybe doing dishes on a camping trip, and I remember seeing myself behind the camera, and seeing my kids in the picture with him, and I remember thinking, wow, Kate. That's wishful thinking, and that's not healthy.

I emailed him back. I answered all four of his emails about ten minutes apart, and I asked him, "Am I going to meet you?" wondering why he would be bummed I was leaving if I didn't even know him...

The next morning, I got an email, "My flight vest was rumbling all the way to Spokane..." Apparently, he's a flight paramedic. He flies around in a helicopter rescuing people in remote and urgent situations and taking them to hospital care. Yeah, I know. Okay. Heroic. His flight vest was rumbling because he was getting my emails. And he was glad they were all from me.

And thus began 48 hours of mad texting. And then I thought, this is insane. I don't know this guy. How do I know what he's like? He could wear socks with his teevas for all I know. He could be a serial killer. You decide which is worse.

Finally, I told him, after being completely twitterpated for two days, "I can't do this. I can't flirt with you and be swept off my feet by a man I don't know. I know NOTHING about you! And you know nothing about me, and I can't ask your friends, hey, what's Mike like?" I was stuck. I've never been in a situation where I wasn't friends with someone first and then grown into a relationship with them.

And so, after being the recipient of such texts as "I want to plant food with you, I want to dance with you, I want to sit with our bare feet in the grass together at the edge of the river and watch our kids play..." (Are you reading this out of a book? Really? How can you be brave enough to say these things to me?... oh wait... I asked for this. I wrote down what I wanted. I want someone who is not afraid to love, not afraid to say how he feels, who is willing to take risks, who loves me passionately... shit. I asked for this and now I'm scared of it and I'm running away...) I balked.

"Hey, I'm going camping with my kids on Friday. Want to come?" he asked me.

"Sure." I said. (What? Really? Well, there were some other folks up in Whitefish we could camp with, so it would be safe, but on the other hand, what would be worse than being stuck all weekend with some wierd guy who I didn't hit it off with? Was I insane? Part of me was already feeling like I was in love with him, could that even be possible?

I told my sister. "I'm going camping with this guy..." of course, she thought I was certifiable.

"Kate. You can't do this. You can't go camping with a total stranger with your kids. No." I told this to Mike.

"Hey, my sister is very protective of me, and she might have something here... I need to listen to her. I'm not sure I should go."

"Can I talk to your sister?" he asked me. Sure. I gave him her number.

An hour or so later, she called me back. What could they POSSIBLY have been talking about for that long?

"Okay. If you DON'T go camping with this guy, I'm never talking to you again." WHAT? Really?

And so it was decided. We'd leave in two days. Let the mad texting begin again. We packed our stuff. Ethan and Bodhi and I drove with our dog, Wya, to Rocky Creak in Valley of the Moon. We got there before they did. Just before I lost cell service, I got a text. "I've never wanted to tell a woman that I've never met that I love her before..." Oh my god. I'm either insane, or he is, or this isn't possible or real, or I'm perhaps the luckiest woman to ever walk the earth. You choose.

There was another family already there when we arrived, and the kids ran around playing together while the us grownups attempted to put up the tent and get all ready. I was having trouble concentrating for some reason... and he was late. Very late. And I thought, oh, my god, he's not coming.

Finally I let go and settled down and had a glass of wine around the campfire with our neighbors. I was worried that my kids wouldn't get along with Mike's kids. I mean, his eldest was almost thirteen. My youngest was not yet six. What are a thirteen year old and a five year old going to have in common? I could just see the teenager rolling his eyes and saying, "Oh, this is soooo lame, Dad..." and longing for his x box... a nighmare was about to ensue, i was sure of it.

And then up the road came this old beat up Land Cruiser. Oh, wow. Of course, he drives a super sexy truck. And its covered in gear racks that are all beat to hell, because he uses them. And then he pulls up, and we are all walking across the campsite towards him, and his kids get out. And they are amazing. And Cyrus, the eldest, walks right up to me, and introduces himself with a big smile, and so does Ethan, Mike's Ethan, who is a bit shyer, but very warm, and my Ethan walks right up, "Hi, I'm Ethan, and this is Bodhi, want to see the forrest?" and all four kids take off into the forrest with both dogs running after them. And there I am standing by myself. Mike is watching from the truck, he hasn't got out yet. And I think, well, gee, that was easy. I can see the kids from here, they are holding hands. For real.

I look at the truck. I'm scared, I'm excited, I don't know what to think. I don't know this person at all. But he knows me. "I know the you you show to the world through your blog, Kate. But I want to know all of you. I want to know the you that you don't show to anyone else." Oh my god. Hes going to hold me accountable. He can see right through me. And he stands up, and of course, even though I loved him already and it wouldn't have mattered, he's beautiful. He's tall and blonde and blue eyed and kind. I can feel kindness and caring radiating from him from where I stand, rooted to the spot. He closes the distance between us.

"There you are." he says, looking into my eyes, holding my face in his hands. "Where have you been?"

I just stand there. I don't know what to do with everything I am feeling. I look into the woods, the kids are running around in the trees, oblivious to me and my heart which has fallen out of my body and right into this man's hands.

"Why don't you sit down?" he asks me.

"Ok." I say, and I sort of collapse on the boulder behind me. Mike goes back to his truck and reaches into the driver's seat and brings out a bag of raspberries. (I promise you, I'm not making this up. This all really happened.)

"I picked these raspberries in my garden this morning and I've been waiting all day to feed them to you." For real. He says this. He kneels down in the dirt at my feet and begins to feed me raspberries. And I'm thinking, "I made him up, I made him up there's no way this is real, how did he get here?"

And the weekend continues like this, he plays his guitar with his son, they sing me songs together. Mike plays to Ethan and Bodhi, the boys all play together. We make good food together, we swim in the river together, we have little adventures and big adventures. Its like we've always been a family. The boys are dirty and happy, we play hard for three days, we are irrevocably and completely compatible. We are careful to let the love show, but not to confuse the kids. Mike asks if he can hold my hand, and the moment he does, I can't let go of his. He is gentle. He is respectful. He is patient with his kids and mine. Together, we are all very happy. Its a happiness that none of us have felt in a long time. Its a happiness of getting what you dreamed was possible, but knowing that it was improbable.

And the weekend comes to a close. And I am supposed to leave for India in 30 days and then move to Aspen. His kids ask me, "Do you really have to go?"

At the end of the weekend, Ethan asks me if Mike is going to be my boyfriend. I ask him what he thinks about that. His face breaks out in a huge smile. "YEAH! Yes mom, YES!" and Bodhi is nodding and smiling. Something that was broken is healing here.

That weekend, Ethan caught a snake with his bare hands and Bodhi built a spider web out of climbing rope. The big boys built a slackline and went fishing. And Mike and I fed them and cared for them, and he played me music and looked at me in the starlight. "You are having trouble with this, aren't you?" he asked me.

"Yes." I told him. Because I believe in honesty.

"Can you look at me and tell me you deserve to be happy, Kate?"

I couldn't. I couldn't believe he could know me so well to know that I was struggling, and know why it was that I was struggling. "I deserve to be happy" I whispered, without looking at him. My life is so full, I have so much, wishing and wanting a love like this seems greedy.

"I think you should tell me you deserve to be happy. The way you really feel about it. Don't you want to be happy?" I looked at him. The tears came, I couldn't stop them. He brushed them with his thumb.

"I deserve to be happy." I said, looking into his eyes.

Needless to say, I didn't go to India for my Ayurvedic training. Mike will possibly be in Nepal again this June, I'll go to India then while he's there. We spent the next three months camping every weekend with the kids. On the river, at the resivoir. We took my mom with us, and she fell in love with the family, and they fell in love with her. On the second trip, I got to meet Mikes amazing and beautiful daughter, Marley.

And here's the thing. I've always wanted a huge family. Five skaters and I'll be the goalie, I always said. But I couldn't do it in my previous life, it just wasn't possible to have any more kids. The strain of two on my marriage was hard enough. I was a little sad about that, but I had accepted it and let go of the idea.

And suddenly, here they are. 13, 11, 9, 8, and 6. Five kids. One girl. A tribe. A tribe that meshed on its own with no force or will, just open love, from the very first day.

And lots of people told me that it was too good to be true, that it couldn't last. And it was certainly amazingly overwhelming to both of us. And going at it kind of "backwards" being an instantly integrated family and then getting to know each other certainly had its challenges.

But I got to see my kids blossom and open and grow, they loved to be with the big boys, and the big boys seemed to love to have someone to mentor. And Marley was finally a big sister, and I had someone to do girl stuff with. Bliss. Bliss worth fighting for.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Teaching at Mach Chicken (that's one past Plaid...)

I took my Level 3, (or "Full Cert") for the first time at the end of my second season of skiing and teaching. I was excited to see where I was compared to the bar, and I didn't really expect to pass.

I passed the teaching portion with room to spare, but I didn't pass the skiing. I came pretty close, though!

Michael Hickey, my coach at the time, told me, "Kate, be careful, you don't want to pass your Full Cert unless you feel confident that you could get hired at any resort in the country, and they could give you any client, and you could take that client anywhere on any mountain and teach them and ski with them."

I took these words to heart, but I didn't really appreciate their impact until the beginning of this week.

I passed my full cert at the end of my third season teaching and skiing, last April. This year, I moved to Aspen Mountain, and on Monday, I had my very first lesson there. Now, Aspen Mountain is one of the oldest and most respected ski schools in the world, and I am a full cert instructor there. So I should be able to take anyone that comes into the ski school and work with them anywhere on the mountain.

As a rookie, I expected my first lesson to be someone that was not a ski instructors dream, but no. Right off the top, first lesson, third day on skis, I got thrown some amazing work off the desk. My clients wanted to ski top to bottom gondola runs as FAST as they could, through bumps, powder, over groomers, off cat tracks, through the trees and off the backside. We did eight laps by lunch. EIGHT. It took 17 minutes to ride the gondola and 2 and a half to ski down.

I don't know that I've ever skied that fast for that long. Not even chasing Troy Nedved and Josh Sphuler around Big Sky. I was grateful for Jill Imsand and Christine Bakker, who got me skiing at Mach Chicken (as Dave O says... that's one past Plaid...) through the skied out crud last year. I was grateful for Chris Jones in the bumps, and I was grateful most of all that I hadn't passed my three the year before, because I never would have survived this lesson had it been a year ago!

The best part was, they wanted me to teach! But they didn't want to slow down. So not only are we SKIING at Mach Chicken, but I'm trying to TEACH at Mach Chicken! At this point, I'm really REALLY grateful for Michael Hickey and Josh teaching me to keep it concise. I had literally 30 seconds. 15 to explain what I wanted, 10 to check for understanding, 5 to reiterate, and BAM we were off, melting the snow in our wake.

Two days of this. Welcome to Aspen Mountain, Kate! Sheesh!

Can I tell you something, though? It was great, amazing, awesome fun. And I did it. I changed their skiing, I stayed on my feet, I skied respectably well (although i have a loooong way to go...) and they booked me again for when they are next in town. Yippee!

A Quick Update

Its been a very busy week. I've been going from about 5 in the morning till about 11 at night for the last seven days or so, trying to keep up with co-ordinating my training schedules at the Aspen Club, the Remede Spa, and Aspen Mountain. Everyone is training at once, and everyone has a LOT of work during the Christmas season, so I'm trying to pick up shifts, but leave lots of space for time with my family. My boys will be here in seven days! YEAH!

Setting up a house all over again is incredibly expensive. Its frustrating to have to go and buy things like mops and brooms and cleaning supplies when I already have bought all that stuff, its just up in Bozeman at the house I don't live in anymore. I know that's the reality of splitting the household, and every family that splits has to do it, but its been a loooong time since I had to restock from the ground up and MAN is it expensive!

Its been a very full week, and on top of it all, I'm sick. But I think today I'm over the hump. A half gallon of tangerine juice a day and some Chineese herbs seems to have done the trick.

The week started with moving into the new place, getting my ski school uniform, skiing hard with my rippin clients for a couple of hours, writing, getting picked up for sponsorship by Icebreaker, who will be linking to my blog (whoooppeee!) and good timing too, my only pair of long underwear looks like swiss cheese. I wore yoga pants under my ski pants yesterday...

I got to hear a lecture by Charlie MacArthur on cross discipline MA, and one by Ski Physics Guru Ron LeMaster on carving.

I got hired to write for Ski Magazine, and my article came out in Ski Racing and Telemark Skiing.

I went through training at the Aspen Club and at Remede at the St. Regis, and I began training on Aspen Mountain. I got to ski with Weems and Cindy, and we had some great talks about whats going on in my skiing, which is NOT where I left it last year.

I have about 18 hours of slow motion open parallel ahead of me... and I'm okay with that. I took the day off from training on skis today to let my body recover from this dang cold...

I have LOTS of blog posts to put up... I'm keeping little lists, but I have no internet in my house still and no cell service, either, so right now, I'm sitting in the laundry room at the ranch. To get here, I just pull on my snowboots and walk in my PJ pants under an amazingly starry sky along the creek in knee deep snow for about 150 yards. Its quite lovely, and the laundry room is quite warm and snug.

But I don't get in here often enough to hammer out the writing like I'd like to. I'll be back to a post a day (or nearly) when my internet goes in and I can post from bed!

Thanks for reading and for taking this wild ride with me!

Proud to be writing for:

Its been quite a year, and I want to say thank you to all the amazing publications that have put my pieces in print this year, and thanks to all of you for reading them!
To visit these magazines, click on their links in the sidebar!

Psyched to be writing for SKI magazine!

Well, it happened. I just got hired to write for one of the top 3 skiing publications in the country, SKI magazine. I'm thinking about a picture my mom took of me when I was about 12 writing on one of the many old antique typewriters that I collect. I never thought it would be true, that I'd really get paid to write stuff, let alone get paid to write about my favorite things to do in the world, but here we go, its happening. Details to follow, stay tuned!

Ski Racing Magazine is out with World Cup Coverage by Kate!

Oh holy wow its amazing to see my stuff in print! Ski Racing magazine is out! With an article by me on Slipping the course last year. You can read it HERE, or better yet, go buy a copy on news stands!

Sponsored by Icebreaker!

Holy wow this week is out of control. Guess what, guess what guess WHAT! I just got picked up by ICEBREAKER! This is the nicest wool gear I've ever worn, hands down. And now, I'm one of their sponsored Athletes! I have officially fallen down the rabbit hole! YEAH! Stay tuned for gear reviews!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Red Coat Red Coat Red COAT!

Today, I taught my first lesson on Aspen Mountain! My first lesson as a pro for the Aspen Ski Co. It was AWESOME! We did top to bottom ripper laps on the Gondoloa as the snow was beginning to accumulate. My clients are training for a heli ski trip, so they need mileage. Its been dumping all night, so it looks like we'll have at LEAST six inches of fresh in the morning. Time to break out the big boards!

I must say that seeing the red sleeves of my coat come up into my field of vision while I ski with the Aspen Valley below me is a truly other-worldy sensation. I'm grateful for every turn I make, and I'm grateful, so grateful, to everyone who helped get me here, and to the enormously gentle and encouraging welcome that I've gotten from everyone at the Aspen Mountain ski school. It has been an incredible beginning.

Thanks for having me! I love my red coat!!

Happy Birthday, MOM!

Thank you for all that you do for me, and for our family. You are truly an inspiration, and I can't believe how big your heart is. I'm grateful to know my boys are safe in your arms up there in Montana, and I can't wait to see you again soooooon for Christmas in Aspen! I love you!

Live the Dream with me!

Here it is! My silly 30 second spot for Live the Dream!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

First Aspen Ski School Meeting!

Suddenly last night I got a text from Andy telling me to get my butt down to the Mountain Chalet, it was time for the Aspen Mountain Ski School Annual Meeting! I was excited for my first official mountain event, and I learned a lot at it, but most important, I learned that I have a LOT to learn! I have no idea how things work here, and I don't think they are used to having a total newbie to the Ski Co working on Aspen Mountain. I am the only new pro this year on Aspen Mountain (hired out of the Ski Co), and I was standing there looking around at this distinguished group of people and I sort of realized, maybe, what I've gotten myself into.

Its Andy's first year as ski school director there, and everyone is very excited to have him. He got up and said howdy, and in his short speech, he said that it was an honor, and honestly a little intimidating to be the new director of one of the oldest, most distinguished, most respected, and most tenured ski schools in the world. Gulp. A few minutes later, he welcomed the transfers in from the other schools, and then he introduced me. "And new this year from Bridger Bowl, Montana, Kate Howe."

It was really almost comical. I feel a little bit like a toddler who just learned how to run who is hanging out with a bunch of people that are training for a marathon. Like I'm running along with them, and the feeling of running is so awesomely fun that I don't really care that I just figured out how to do it.

Mike Caplain, the CEO of the Ski Co got up and talked to us, and it was great see the personal and deep investment that he has in the ski school. We heard some great statistics from the survey, every year, the Ski Co surveys 5000 guests through an independent company. While most other resort's numbers slipped, Aspen came in on the top in Value, and in Customer Satisfaction. I'm proud to work for a company that can kill it like that in the midst of a scary recession! Wooohaaa!

I walked around after the intros and met my fellow ski instructors, I've skied with many of them, and recognized a lot of them, but there are a LOT of people to remember! The thing that's been amazing is how incredibly HELPFUL everyone is offering to be! Its been amazing how many people are asking how I'm doing, how I'm adjusting and if they can help. Just knowing that this support is HERE makes me feel strong and raring to go, unafraid to keep walking and moving and working.

I'm really struck by the fact that three years ago I was a non skiing stay at home mom, sad, very lonely, overweight, and dead inside. Today, I am full cert, I play outside every day, I'm fit, I've graduated from school, I have energy to play with my kids, I have a wonderful relationship (and three more kids to go with it) and three amazing jobs, one of them teaching at the legendary Aspen Mountain.

HOW did this happen? I gotta say, its strange, and wonderful, and I feel very blessed.

Aspen Skiing Company: Renew the Human Spirit

Hello hello gentle reader! Thank you so much for your patience! Its been a week and a half since I posted, it feels like its been an eternity. I'm gonna go a little out of order here, and just get em up, I have so much to write about! Mike gave me a little voice recorder so I've been able to make little notes about post topics that occur to me.

On Thursday, I had my first "official" Aspen Ski Co. meeting, we went to New Hire Orientation where we filled out sooo much paperwork... this is the first time that I've worked for a large corporation, and while I've seen Tom go through it when he got hired at RightNow, and my mom used to administrate stuff like this as the head of HR for some huge silicon valley companies, I've never been a cog in a wheel like this. It feels... beautiful!

Aspen Ski Co seems to have managed to become an enormous, well oiled machine that does not let the very important aspect of valuing its employees slip through the cracks while it continues to grow.

At orientation, we were not only told what would be expected of us, but we were told what we could expect from the company. This message, I think the message that every company wishes it could send, is one that seems to have delivered itself just by the virtue of how the company is run, what its core principals are, and the people that they hire. I've heard this about the Ski Co, it was one of Outside Magazine's Top 10 places to work in 2008, but I was always a bit skeptical of it.

Of course everyone who works here thinks its the greatest place to work, that's how you recruit people to work somewhere! But then I thought about that for a minute longer... I've never actually worked somewhere where everyone I talked to was happy with their job and grateful to work at this particular company. People readily say there is room for improvement. People say its a work in progress. But people also say its the best place they've ever worked.

So here it is. The mission statement of the Aspen Skiing Company is: Renew the Human Spirit. That's it. How do they do it? By honoring the Mind, Body and Spirit. The Ski Co is committed to being here for the long haul, and they aren't focused on luxury. They are focused on opportunity for excellence. The result of this... its the best ski experience in the country, and therefore its where those who love luxury travel.

I'm so very excited to join this team! Its something that Kurt and I used to talk about quite a bit. "What's the point? I'm a ski instructor. What does that do in the big picture?"

I'll tell you what it does in the big picture. It is yet another opportunity to wake someone up. To put their feet in touch with the earth, their skin in touch with the sun and the wind. Its an opportunity to show them that they are so much more than they ever imagined. They can do more, and be more, and they will leave here and cary that idea into their other work, home to their kids, and their spouses, and if we are lucky... that will ripple out and touch thousands of people.

And not because they could afford to do an expensive sport at an exclusive resort. Heck, I have about $220 to my name right now, and I ski all the time at this place. Its because here, in Aspen, there is a collection of people who believe that its important to be outside, its important to breathe, to play, and to be free for even just a day. It renews you.

Fear of Being Alone

I often ask myself "What is the lesson" when I'm in a place that feels challenging. I ask that because I don't want to have gone through something that is difficult without emerging with something that made it worthwhile to wander around in the muck like that. I used to kind of kick my feet and wish I didn't have to go through these things, I used to whine and wonder why me? I remember clearly a time when I thought it wasn't fair that it was so easy for everyone else and so hard for me. I remember thinking that it would be better if I'd had an easier childhood, if someone just loved me the way I needed to be loved, I'd feel whole and therefore I'd be able to be ME!

But what I've come to realize over the last ten years, and in the last three especially, is that I don't think that's what its about. Looking for a place to blame, looking for a place to say, well, I would realize my potential if only... or its not fair that this other person gets to have a lucky break when all I get is hard times... all that does is screw you down tighter into that place.

And when you are screwed down tight like that, there's no wiggle room. A deep breath doesn't lift you off the screw, you can't ever move forward because you are trapped by your desire not to be where you are right now.

Something profound changed for me when I realized that, as Amy says, "You are right where you need to be to learn the lesson that you need to learn. And where you need to be is not always comfortable or pleasant." So now, when I feel that uncomfortable place, the first thing I've learned to think is, "What am I supposed to be learning right now?" This does a couple of things, but the most important one, I think, is that it gives me space between my fear about what feels uncomfortable, different, or painful, and the actual event. It gives me a moment to let go of being pulled around by emotional fish hooks, and look at the moment with curiosity.

Like smoothing the wrinkles out of a sheet with your hand, there is some clarity there.

I'm thinking about this a lot right now, because one of the biggest issues that I've worked on over the years, is fear of being alone. And I've been writing about this quite a bit in the last few weeks, because for only the second time in my life, and for the first time in thirteen years, I live by myself. This will end in about two days when my room mates move in, and I'm almost sad about it.

Living alone has been wonderful, and scary. The loss I feel of my kids is tremendous. I look at their photos, I feel Bodhi's pain from so far away, I know he's struggling and sad, today he told my mom "I miss my mommy. I want her here. I want to talk to her." and today he told me that when he sees me we are going to roll on the floor hugging for hours.

Missing Mike is hard, too, our connection is strong and deep, and we've worked hard to nurture it. Now that his trip down here is over, there is a huge hole where he was. Who knows how long it will be till I see him again, and it may be even longer till I see his kids.

I know that there are worse, harder, more difficult things to survive than being alone, and I've survived some of them in my life. But its interesting to me that the deep hole that challenges me the most is this one. If I'm alone, am I loved? If I'm alone, am I enough for me? Can I make good food, just for me? Can I write, can I pay my bills, can I live my life because I need to, I want to, and not because someone else is watching me do it and saying, "well done" or "you could have done that better" or "you need to do this now."

Its embarrassing to admit in public that this has been a big struggle for me. But I know I'm not alone here. I think being alone in our skin is one of the biggest challenges that many of us face. We can walk around in the world and feel connected, but when we are in our own skin, with nothing distracting us, we sit with the truth of who we are, what our motivations are, and our choices are very clear. With out the anesthetist of television and internet, the volume is turned up on those things.

Sitting by myself in my house, with no television, no internet, there are no distractions from that pain that comes with feeling acutely alone. The loss of those kids, even for these two months, is like the loss of a limb. But while its hard for all of us, I think that it has been a tremendous opportunity for me to learn to become more whole. I am okay being alone. I didn't die. I can get out of the bed, and make myself good food. In other words, I have discovered that I am enough for me. While its very easy for me to get up and make a fun and fantastic breakfast for the kids, I was worried that I wouldn't be motivated to take care of myself the way that I take care of them.

But that hasn't been the case. I'm doing ok. There are nights when I have curled up and let the longing for them wash through me like a burning river. I don't really know what to do in those instances. I see Bodhi's beautiful face, I feel Ethan's gentle breath, I see them laying in their beds, finally asleep, and I long for them in a way that feels acutely painful. All I've learned to do in that case is to let that feeling move through me, to be grateful for the bond that we have, to know that it hurts this much because I love them this much, and to be grateful for the opportunity to know I am strong enough to survive separation like this.

And soon, very soon, we won't have to feel this way anymore. And the result of being alone, being apart, will be that the mom that they come back to is even healthier, stronger and more sure of herself. So it hurts to learn to be okay with being alone, it hurts to let go of my fear of being alone and kind of embrace it. But every time I let go a little more, I feel more capacity for love, I feel more grounded, I know I can accomplish more, with less judgment and more compassion.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

thanksgiving road trip!

well, mason fixed my back window with duct tape and mike and I are on the road to aspen. A new chapter!

aspen or bust!

On the road to aspen! Mom packed us yummy quiche and cookies. Bike, check. Cure boy in truck! Check. All the furniture I could fit, check. Hugged the boys, my wife Shannon gave us snacks and hugs. Here we go aspen or bust!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Live the Dream TV! Episode One: The Kate Howe Story.

Well, its official, my life is truly unlike any I could have dreamed. Many of you know that I am working with Qittle, a very cool tech start up that does SMS bundled marketing.

They are giving away a YEAR free in Aspen/Snowmass, in their "Live the Dream" contest, including a place to live, a ski pass and WAY more.

The idea of living a life full of passion, a life that makes you feel fulfilled, the idea of doing what you love even if it doesn't meet the social norm is hugely important to these VERY energetic visionary entrepreneurs.

To that end, they are launching a 62 city tour of the US, where they will be showing a short film of my story, and giving away the PSIA poster of me. We get to shoot it this weekend on Aspen Mountain!

Next weekend, we will be shooting the first 1/2 hour episode of "Live the Dream TV", a show about people who have decided to follow their passion. The first episode focuses on my story, from unhappy, energy deficient stay at home non skiing mom to full cert instructor on Aspen Mountain who has the energy to go camping all summer with her kids.

AND IT GETS BETTER! After that, I'll be hosting a short segment every week of Live the Dream, where we talk about other people who are doing just that. I'm the "Man on the Ground" in Aspen for this segment.

AND we are giving away free swag every Friday! So if you want to win gear, and get stoked to do what you love and trust that the money will follow, tune in to Grass Roots TV starting around Dec. 15 for Live the Dream TV!

Bliss on the home front.

Its been soooo wonderful to be with the kids! Today I went to school with them and ate lunch, and then did about a half hour of serious hard core underdogs to the entire kindergarten and first grade class.

Bodhi is really struggling in school, I met with his teacher and she was nearly in tears out of concern for him. Apparently, he is crying for me all the time, and is then very glad to go home early to snuggle with his Savta. It was really wonderful to be in his classroom and see his pride in his class. Mrs. Fastings is concerned that he's not socializing well with the other kids, and we talked about strategies for this, basically at this point, she's just trying to hold on and keep safe space for him.

I'm so grateful for this amazing team of Betty, Mr. Blessum, Charlotte Dixon and Mrs. Fastings who are really and truly on Bodhi's team. You know who else is on Bodhi's team? Ethan is.

He is working hard in school, really coming up and meeting the challenge even though its hard, and he's helping Bodhi out in school as well. He reminds me of another super cool kid I know, Mike's eldest son, Cyrus. The change in Ethan from the begining to the summer to now is really remarkable. And Ethan is proud of it.

We talked today about my house in Aspen and I answered all their questions while trying not to give them a specific date of their move. They are both excited to come down, and that makes me happy and gratified, but I don't want to give them a date and then disappoint them. All I can do is get their home ready for them and cross my fingers that we work it out amicably.

Monday, November 23, 2009

An Amazing Welcome Home From my Boys!

Liat and Will dancing at the Republican

Stayed in salt lake tonight due to massive snow storm. Instead, had a wonderful time at the republican bar with my sis and her awesome jazz musician boyfriend. Guinness anyone?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Second Aspen MA Session tonight!

Okay, its official, I am a GIANT SKI GEEK. We spend two and a half hours geeking OUT on how the legs turn inside the pelvis and if the legs and spine pull the pelvis into and out of position, and critical edge angle and line of action and all these crazy wonderful things. Sigh...

I love MA. I love it. I love to learn more about skiing. Its true. :-) going to bed a happy girl tonight.

Permission to Become, or Shedding the Skin

I walked into my friend Paul's house this morning, and I was there for a total of five minutes before he told me a story that I immediately wanted to write about.

The Buddha was sitting with some of his students one day, and a man came by and spit on him. The Buddha's students were angry and incensed. "You can't do that! You can't spit on the Buddha!" they said. The Buddha did nothing, just continued to sit. The man went away.

The students were offended and angered by the disrespect the man had shown their sacred teacher. "Don't be so upset." The Buddha said. "The man didn't spit on me, he spit on his idea of me."

The next day, the man came back, crawling on his hands and knees and begging forgiveness. "Teacher, teacher..." he cried. The Buddha greeted him kindly. "You don't need to ask for forgiveness. You are not the same person as the man who spit on me yesterday."

I love this story. Its such a simple and beautiful way to show both sides of a situation we have all found ourselves in. We all are guilty of imposing our idea of someone on them.

There is a lesson on both sides of the beginning of the story: Let go of our tendency to be like the man, assuming something about the people around you. That person must be an attention whore, that person must be full of themselves, that person thinks they know everything, that person... these are all ideas about that person.

If you can let go of the mirror, that is, often times we become angry and inflamed when we meet someone who is a mirror to us, they show us what we wish we could be, or where we are lacking, or what we wish we could have, and that reflects our IDEA of our self worth back at us. We erroneously assume that we are less because of what this person has. But we probably don't know this person's whole story, and where they are rich in some areas, it is likely (unless they are a Buddha) they are poor in others. And the mirror they show us, of our lack, is an opportunity for us to become richer. To open to the lesson of how we can be more whole. If we can let go of the mirror as a negative reflection, let go of ego and assumption and just be, and see... oh, I could be more compassionate, as this person is, see how rich they are in this area of their life? We would be much happier, much less judgemental, much more open.

If we can be like the Buddha, and realize that the person who spits on us does it because they see us through a filter of their own suffering, we don't need to be hurt at all by it. If you attack me because I have found happiness or peace in my life, I can understand that you see my happiness as a threat to your own, and I can understand that when a person feels threatened, they act from the ego. I can understand that the man who spits on me does it because he is seeing me through the filter of his own lack. (Or perceived lack.)

And when the man comes back the next day, having realized that he erred (and they seldom do), he does what our egos all wish our enemies would do, he grovels at your feet and says he is sorry and venerates you. Rather than taking this as a huge boost to your ego, a validation of your life and success, be humble like the Buddha. Know that the person who has come to you has experienced a shift, has grown, evolved, let go of his concept of you and may be willing to see you as who you are. This person is brave, this person desires to connect. This person is the same as you, is on the same path as you, and deserves to be treated how you would like to be treated. With compassion. "Don't apologize. You aren't the same man who spit on me." And it is gone. There is no score to settle, there is no grudge, blame, or explanation. There is acceptance. And trust.

Be like the man who came back to the Buddha. Take a moment to set aside your ego and examine your interactions with others. Were you angry because you feel you lack? Were you frightened at what that means? Did you feel less? Did you feel your worth dissolve? Is it possible that this issue is coming from you, rather than being imposed on you by someone else? If you set aside your WISH. I wish it was different, I wish I had what they have, I wish I could just be done already, if you set aside your wish, and therefore your ego, is there a lesson you can learn? Usually there is. And its often a gentle lesson that is simply saying, Open yourself a little more, and things will come to you. Don't define your self worth by what you have and what you lack. Don't define your self worth at all. Just be. And you'll be fine.

I think of these lessons, and I realize that it is a story about the never ending becoming. Its permission for us to make a mistake, and get back up. It is permission to be grateful for what we do have, to feel fulfilled by what we have, not to desire what we don't have, and to give grace to those who are also trying to become. We all stumble down this path. Being willing to welcome your fellow travelers, warts and all, is a beautiful gift for both of you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ron LeMaster's NEW BOOK IS OUT!

Ron LeMaster, author of The Skier's Edge, (the most thorough and comprehensive book on skiing I've read so far), has a NEW BOOK!

Ultimate Skiing is out!

From Ron:

Now Available!

My new book, Ultimate Skiing, is now available at bookstores and online booksellers. It's also available both in print and as an ebook directly from the publisher, Human Kinetics.

For more information, as well as online previews of the book, click here.

The book is filled with color photos and photomontages of World Cup competition and expert skiing. It contains revised and updated material from my earlier book, The Skier's Edge - with completely new photos, photomontages and illustrations - and entirely new chapters on alignment and stance, applications of tactics and technique to advanced and expert terrain and snow, and boot setup.

A selection of new photomontages from the book can be seen on my website,

Best wishes for a season of great skiing,
Ron LeMaster

Hate is Love Standing on its Head

Hate is not the opposite of Love.
Hate is Love standing on its head.

Fear is the opposite of Love.
If we fear, we cannot love.
When we love fully, in totality
we have no fear.
Do not try to kill fear.
Love, become Love in totality
and Fear will have no presence.
Love in totality, goes beyond loving others or ourselves, it becomes our Way.
And the nectar of Life is us.

- Paul McFarlane

A Beautiful Woman

I need to take a moment here to say thank you to my mom. I want you all to meet this incredible woman.

My mother has taught me more about having grace, about opening my heart, about patience, love, overcoming adversity, pushing through when you are tired, doing it right, being willing to go the distance, finding the will inside to continue one, giving, loving and healing than any book or seminar or therapy session ever could.

She has struggled in her life against her own issues. She has continued, through her entire life, and even to this day, to be open to change. To look for the lesson, to evolve. She is not afraid to heal, to examine. She's not afraid to tell the truth. She's never afraid to work harder, to tackle the seemingly impossibly huge job.

With calm, with love, with eagerness, with a belief in elbow grease and home made cookies, this woman is a painter, a cook, the vice president of a major semiconductor equiment manufacturer, a grandmother, a mother, a shoulder in times of stress and strife, and the first person I want to call when something happens, good or bad. She is a soft place to land in hard times.

Right now, my mother is living in Bozeman with my ex husband. She dropped everything in her life, again, to take care of my children, to be an open heart to them, so that I could come down here and keep pursuing a better life. She has made herself into a bridge for them and for me, so that I can have a career that is fulfilling to me and earns me enough money to take great care of my kids.

I can't ever explain to you how grateful I am for this woman, for the huge effort she had to make in her life to become who she is. She has always been extraordinary. But every day, she shows me how I can be better.

Thank you, mom. I love you so much, and I'm so very grateful to you.

Like a Laser through a Prism, or I was in training for my Job!

I've written before about the bizarre and interesting careers I've bopped around in my life, from writing, to photography, painting, sculpture, live theater, a stint in LA chasing TV and movies, rock climbing coach, gym owner, personal trainer, figure skater, I dipped my toe in the catering pool, I owned a business called Prellaser where I drew your bath for you in your home, I made designer cloth diapers, I was a lighting and scenic designer, counselor, performance coach, massage therapist, not to mention... MOM! ... it goes on and on.

I remember once sitting on the edge of the stage in acting class, my teacher was Jeffrey Tambor, a man I adored, respected, admired, WHAT A TEACHER this guy was. Like the parent you always hoped you could be. Firm, no bullshit, but loving. So caring. He wanted you to succeed, and to make sure you did, he wasn't going to sugar coat it. I remember one day after I worked so hard on a scene that I had wanted to do, but fallen short in execution, he said to me: Kate, you are talented. So talented. But you are like a laser beam through a prism. You are refracted everywhere. You are a poet. You are a painter. You teach rollerblading. What else do you do?

I was flattered that he saw me as something of a Renascence woman. I congratulated myself on being able to try new things. Then, he looked at me. "What do you think would happen if you took all that energy you have, and took the prism out? How strong of a beam of light would you be then?"

I left the session feeling both empowered and a little deflated. Was he calling me a dilettante? Was I unable to commit? I knew what he was talking about. He gave me one note: "Finish". Finish what you are doing.

I've carried this note through my life, and its a challenge for me. My sketchbook is filled with things I want to invent, my desk and computer are full of half finished novels, screen plays, there are unpainted paintings and unmade sculptures.

This is one reason I was so thrilled when I managed to pass my full cert last year and graduate from massage therapy school. I was finally finishing. But I now have a different definition of finishing.

I think that you can't take something to its end point in this life. I think that "it" is always evolving. I think that finish means "continue on the path".

When I was younger, I was worried that I'd miss out on something if I chose something. How could I know that I'd chosen the right thing? What if I dedicated all my energy toward succeeding in one area of my life only to NOT know that I was missing out on what my true calling was?

Today, it occurred to me again, with a little more clarity, that I wasn't being a dilettante. I was searching... let me see if I can explain what I realized. Its a bit esoteric, hang in with me here.

I was searching for the THING that lit me up and made me feel like I'd found my calling. Like Agnes of God, I wanted words from on high: THIS is what you are meant to do. THIS is what you are meant to be.

And I was looking at it from a very linear perspective. You can be a painter. You can be an accountant (Alright, you can, but I couldn't. But you get my point.) You need to go to the guidance counselor, and look at the List of Jobs and pick one. Like reading the Richard Scarry book, "What do People do all Day?" (which was one of my favorite books as a child, I was obsessed with reading the labels and seeing how many different things you could BE!)

That never sat well with me. I always felt like I was trying to fit into a hole that someone else had made. But still, I searched.

What I have come to realize over the last few years, is that the point of "it all" (for me anyway), is not to find THE THING, and then make a contribution. But to find THE WAY (for now) that you can make the best, most fulfilling contribution, and THE THING will reveal itself to you.

That's why I didn't fit into the hole. I'm not a ski instructor. I'm not a writer, I'm not a performance coach, I'm not a massage therapist, I'm not a motivational speaker. I do all of those things, but that's not what I AM.

To borrow a phrase from my dear friend, I'm a human being. (He is a Professional Human Being, you can find his blog HERE.)

What I've seen is that I couldn't coalesce into a focused laser beam, because I had some lessons to learn first. I needed to find myself a bit more, heal myself a bit more, and search for what it was in life that I could give BACK, rather than BE. Because I can't be anything else but me.

So my job, of sorts, created itself, revealed itself, after I walked around in life and shifted my thinking from "How can I become successful? The most successful? How can I find the thing in life that I can be the most successful at?" to "What is my purpose here? How can I feel fulfilled as a person?"

And that answer is that I am energized, I feel my worth as a human, when I interact with other people and help them make positive changes in their lives. But I also found out that the most exciting way to do that is to introduce people to their adventurous side.

I remember taking my mom rock climbing once, and watching her overcome her fear as she reached the top. I remember taking my mom SCUBA diving and sitting underwater with her and watching her take her first breath. After I shared those experiences with her... and really, what my role was in those instances was to hold a gentle caring space for her so she could step outside her comfort zone and become... I realized as I watched her swim with sea turtles in the Cayman Islands (this, a woman who six months before had been terrified of water and couldn't swim at ALL), I realized that I felt fulfilled in my life when I could act as a bridge or a catalyst that allowed other people to make change in THEIR OWN lives.

Its not something that I do. I facilitate the energy, the belief that THEY can do it, and then I get the amazing and unique pleasure of watching them continue to unfold and become in their lives, just as I am becoming in my life.

And to do that, I need a huge tool bag. And that's why I think I tried sooo many different things in my life before my meaning exposed itself to me.

I'm me, and my office is the mountain. On the mountain, I get to help you see that you can become more of you. I get to use the landscape of the outdoors to do it. I borrow lessons I learned in acting, skating, painting, psychology, meditation, massage, cooking... and on and on. I'm a late bloomer because I had a long long long training session I had to go through before my tool bag was big enough to have enough tools in it to fit enough people that I could really begin to build a bridge for almost anyone that I met. And everyone is different, so everyone needs their own unique bridge.

I still have the tendency to be a laser through a prism, I find myself occasionally with a finger in too many pots, but now the difference is that I see my path clearly. As I fill my life, I'm able to reel myself back in and ask, is this on my path? Is this something that can help me teach other people to take a risk and step outside of the norm, to become themselves, undefined and unique? Or is this just a shiny distraction that seems interesting?

(Sometimes, even when the answer is yes to that last question, I can't help myself, because I want to experience something new. I guess an example of that would be changing my starter out myself. It was SO fun and so satisfying, in the past, I probably would have volunteered to work as a mechanic on the ranch I'm at, or gone to CMC to take an auto shop class. But that would over commit me and pull me off my path, so now I'm able to enjoy the unique experience, but let go of needing to know EVERYTHING there is to know about it. I'm finally able to dabble.)

Things are really rolling now, I'm excited to see opportunities opening around me that feel right, that point to me being able to be a bridge for more people, but in an arena that is uniquely fulfilling to me; to my need to be outside, to be athletic, to be challenged. I'm so grateful for the journey!

Help me pick a new POC helmet!

WOW, this is sooo Cool!! POC has a new Receptor Bug line of helmets this year with AWESOME colors! You can do amazing color combinations with the goggles. Wanna help me pick? I'm leaning toward an Orange helmet with Pink goggles, or a purple helmet with yellow goggles. I just can't decide they are soooo pretty!

Click here to make your own color combination, and post a comment back on the blog with what you like best!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A quick update

Oh holy moley I'm dying to tell you all something. DYING. But I can't tell you yet. Something big is coming! All I can tell you is that it has something to do with Qittle's Live the Dream contest. Yippie! Stay tuned. More news on that soon.

In other news... I've been working out with Richard at the Aspen Club on the Vibragym machine, twice a week, which has been interesting. Its pretty cool, its this big vibrating plate that you stand on, and the vibration travels up through your body, causing your muscles to fire over and over again. You do specific exercises for each muscle group, just like with weights, but you can fit in a bigger workout in a shorter amount of time, so you have time for stretching and a little massage on the machine as well. I DO know that my abs are SORE from this beast, and that makes me happy!

I also started boxing at the gym, with Mike, and that is outstanding. This is American Boxing, with a bag or a sparring partner, not kickboxing or a step class with punches. This is wraps and gloves and hitting people. YES.

I used to box a long time ago at a gym in Pasadena, lets see... ten years ago? Yipes. Anyhow, its an unbelievable workout, core strength, power, speed, cardio, anaerobic threshold, determination and focus. Yes yes yes. So I'm psyched to be back into that, its excellent cross training.

One of my goals this season is to get my core and upper body super solid and strong so I can ski more aggressive situations with more ease and touch, I don't get rocked as much and can keep my quiet because its strong.

On that note, I started back on the Bosu ball workout that I designed for dry-land training for skiing tonight, and now my abs are REALLY sore. I love this workout, I'm going to shoot a new video on it and post it here for you as soon as I can. I've improved it from a few years ago when I first came up with it.

What else is going on? I've been giving a ton of massage at the club, which is great, getting to know the space and the people who work there, its an amazing environment to work in, everyone is very supportive and its AMAZING to have this huge, world class facility to work out in because I'm an employee there. LUCKY ME!

So that's the fitness end. I'm not getting quite as much cardio in as I'd like, and I should be skinning up Highlands once a day now that its snowed, but I'm also balancing those things with things like writing Ethan a new story, "Ethan and the incredible flying machine" and illustrating the book I wrote for Bodhi so I have some new pictures to show him when we Skype. ("Bodhi and the golden spider web).

Bodhi is struggling at school, I got a call from the school counselor, and things are not going well, he is exhibiting a huge amount of anxiety and fear, he's crying and telling the teacher that he hates school and he misses me and he wants to go home to his grandma. This is very hard to hear, and it makes me feel even more acutely that I need to get him out here to me as soon as I can. I just want to wrap him up in love and make him feel good and safe.

I'll see them in about four days, so I'm just trying to focus on getting my life situated, getting trained up, making some money so that when they come to me, they have a soft, consistent, loving, safe place to land. And it feels like things are really turning around for me.

The money is starting to come in, new opportunities are presenting themselves, my body is getting strong, and Mike and I have decided to give it another shot, and are happily back together, and talking about what it will take to be strong through all the adversity we face by being so far apart.

Its midnight, I'm rambling. Today I was trained in the Alpine Rejuvinator Spa Treatment, the Aspen Clubs signature spa treatment, sooooo incredibly yummy, and tomorrow I have to go practice giving it (and receiving it), so its going to be another early, long day.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Following the vision in your heart

Its been a contemplative couple of days, and tonight, as I was driving home on the ice skating rink that are the roads in Aspen right now, something struck me.

Why do people stop believing? In themselves, in their dreams, in the possibilities for their future. What happens? I've hit this wall myself several times, and I've explored those moments of defeat before, always seeing a different reason.

But I think each one of those reasons points to only one thing. A root cause. Fear.

And I'm talking here about the dreams you hold in your heart. Walking in the grass in the summer, when everything is warm and love is in the air and life feels amazing. The dip of the paddle in the river, the laughter of children, in this moment, its easy to believe that life can be however you want it. Your heart opens, and you look to the future, and you believe the possibilities.

But what about when its dark? What about when you are broke, and there looks like no end in sight? What about the times when things are just hard and you feel like you are digging yourself out of a hole that keeps filling up with sand?

This is the time to reach into your heart for your dream, and pull it out and put it in front of your face, shining. A miner's lamp in the dark. The path to your dreams has winds and twists and turns in it that are there, I believe, to teach us lessons. The path to your dream is never straight, and easy, no mater how well funded your venture is.

And if you can honor your path, if you can know, as my friend Amy says, that "You are right where you need to be to learn the lesson that you need to learn. And where you need to be to learn that lesson is not always plesant or comfortable.", you grow exponenitally at every hardship.

Let your heart be light, boyed by the knowledge that you are walking steadily towards something better, even when you feel mired. Search for the lesson, open your heart and accept that lesson into yourself, and suddenly, the sand you are digging in is lighter, your path clearer, and you are lifted by yourself.

We need our dreams the most when we are in the dark.

Michael and I made it through the darkness. We are dreaming again.

Slip Sliding Away

This article is being re-posted as it is being published in a shorter form in the upcoming Ski Racing Magazine! Readers from Ski Racing who have come to read the full article, thanks for stopping by!

To see more photos and video from Day 1 on the World Cup Course, visit my Flickr Page

Its four am. This is never really a friendly time to get up, no matter how early you went to bed the night before, and of course, I went to bed at around midnight. But today isn't like any other day, today, I get to go out on the Women's Giant Slalom World Cup course in Aspen and help prepare the snow surface.

Last night I spent two and a half, YES, two and a HALF hours tuning my skis, my friend Kurt Fehrenbach kept coming out to check on them, nope, not sharp yet, keep going. At least I'm finally not afraid of my file! Got em' good and sharp, because we'd been told that the snow surface was just about as hard and icy as it could get. "They injected it." we were warned. I didn't know what that meant, but it didn't sound good.

The day was full of firsts for me, this one being that we were getting to the course on bicycles, as parking is very limited, so I had a borrowed bike with studded snow tires, and I followed Kurt, skis casually slung over his shoulder, as I slipped and sided and struggled just to stay upright over to the chair lift in the dark, headlamp illuminating Kurt in the near distance.

Thanksgiving day, the day before, had been dry, and sunny, with a very thin cover of natural snow up high, and some man-made down further on the mountain. The World Cup course was in great condition, they had it just the way they wanted it, it turns out, "injecting" the course means very soggy work, where a couple of guys haul a pipe with long spikes and a huge hose down the hill, stab the spikes into the snow and inject water under the get the man made snow to firm up just right. The injector goes from 10" to 2' under the snow surface and pumps water into the snow, just enough that it isn't running down under the snow, but bonding the snow crystals together.

I had gone up the day before and met Mike Haas, who was coordinating the slip crews. A slip crew is a group of people, in this case, Aspen/Snowmass instructors who were all very high level skiers, who go out after each racer and side-slip down the course to smooth out any ruts or holes, and to push any piled up snow away from the gates.

My friend and mentor Megan had posted on her Facebook page, when everyone started freaking out about the lack of snow for opening weekend, "Don't worry, we have a World Cup race, OF COURSE it will snow!" And it did, much to the glee of the skiers in town, but not at all what you want on a perfectly prepped race course.

Practice for the racers had been canceled due to heavy snowfall, and here we are now, 5am, riding a chair lift in the dark, wearing headlamps. The town is asleep, the course is already buzzing with silent, concentrated activity. People are shoveling, side-slipping, and preparing the course as much as they can in the dark.

Riding a chair lift in the dark is an amazing experience, I've only done it once before for the Torchlight Parade at Bridger Bowl in Montana, where I teach skiing, and it was eerily beautiful then as now. Now, It is lightly snowing, my headlamp catching the occasional flake as the storm that dumped 10" or more on the hill the day before begins moving off. Gliding over the trees, Kurt and I swing in our chair, turn off the headlamps and keep eyes out for tiny dots of light sliding down the incredibly steep and icy GS course.

photo by FIS

Ruthie's Restaurant at the top of the 1A chair at Aspen Mountain was headquarters for the slip crew and racers alike, we parked our equipment, and I went inside to handle waivers for non SkiCo employees, while Kurt and about forty other instructors went out to sideslip in the dark. I had been really excited to participate in this part of the activity, but due to the fact that I was recently in a car accident and the GS course is basically an ice skating rink tipped on its side, Mike asked that I abstain until the sun came up. I was disappointed, but the idea was to help, not add stress, so I went in and set up a paperwork station. Turns out, like most of the calls Mike makes, this was a good decision.

The sun came up on Aspen, beautiful below me, and the crew came back in for regrouping and instructions for the rest of the day. There had to be about 140 people who were up there to slip the course, Squatty Schuler, my head coach and one of the leaders, had been shoveling snow out of the start for hours the day before, only to come back at o dark thirty this morning and do it all over again.

I'm standing in the restaurant looking around, and the thing I can't believe, aside from the fact that I'm here and get to participate in this incredibly high level event, is how seamlessly everything is run. Mike Haas is just about as calm as they come, in spite of the huge snowfall, schedule changes, and the enormous amount of people under his command, he has a smile for everyone, and in turn, everyone there to work that morning was calm, patient, and listening.

It is finally time, Katie Fry and I were going to go out together to film the race for Megan's Movement Analysis video. This is a huge responsibility, this is footage that she uses every year to talk about contemporary movements in skiing, and I was excited to do a good job at it. Kurt had loaned me a pair of crampons to wear on the course, Dennis Handley had taken me on a tour of the course the morning before, (did I mention it is STEEP AND ICY?), and Katie and I were to have open access to whatever we needed.

Standing at the start and looking out at the sea of red coats that are the Aspen/Snomass ski school uniform, I was struck with the incredible professionalism of the ski school. I looked at Katie, the Ski School director for all four mountains in the Aspen valley and said, "You must be very proud, these guys are incredible." She smiled, and you could see it in her face, in her eyes, these are her guys, this is her baby, this mass of well trained, responsible professionals, and she said, "Yup, they do a great job every time."

Time to go, we slid out onto the glazed course and with every cell of brain power I could muster, I asked my body to get into a stable sideslipping position and "Just go with it."

"Its really slick, Kate, be careful!"

"Put weight on the downhill ski, don't brace against it, or it will come out from under you and you'll go to the bottom!"

"Squeeze and flex in your butt and knees, don't brace on your feet, or you'll fall and slide a long way!"

I'd been hearing stories all morning of times when group leaders had slipped and fallen on the course in years past, and I knew I was probably in over my head, if an Aspen Ski School Trainer level skier is going to slip and fall that I, a level 2 instructor who has been skiing for two years, is really REALLY likely to go down. Lucky for me, my home mountain at Bridger Bowl has lots of fun, steep, technical things to play on, but I'm a newbie so I (tongue in cheek, of course,) promised Bonnie Hickey, my own fantastic Ski School Director that I wouldn't wear my Bridger Bowl Baseball cap on the course, just in case I went down on my butt and slid to the bottom on live television! Gotta REPRESENT my home mountain in Montana!!

Off we went, letting the skis gain speed, sliding over the super slick blue glaze, and into piles of wet snow on top of more glazed surface. The goal is not to fight the speed and slickness of the ice, and to keep your speed so you can blast apart the piles of snow and push them away from the gates onto the sides of the course.

I had spent the previous evening reading an awesome book, World Cup Ski Technique: Learn and Improve
written in the 80s by Olle Larson, with some on the spot explanation from Kurt, so I'd know what I was looking at when the race started.

I have to say, nothing prepared me for how hard the snow surface was, how steep the course was, and how much attention I had to pay to not just stay upright, but side slip in a way that would be helpful to the course crew, and not a hindrance. I was NOT going to fall and slide to the bottom, I don't care that almost everyone I had talked to who had done this more than twice had eaten it on the course, including Katie.

We made our lap, success, Bridger Bowl can breathe easy, I stayed on my feet, kept up with Katie, and was somewhat helpful moving the snow off the course. Now it was time to get back up there and get into position. I ran into Jonathan Selkowitz from Selko Photo, whom I had met at National Teams Tryouts in April, and we talked about filming angles, and what would work well for the video camera vs. a still shot. His photos are really incredible, and he's (finally!) selling his prints and posters on his website! I was psyched to hear that, he has an amazing shot of a race where the racer was actually in a tuck jumping OVER Jonathan while he shot. Insane. Go to to check out the pictures that someone who KNOWS what they are doing look like!

We finished our lap and skied out the exit (You CAN NOT cross the finish line, there is an exit about 100 feet above the finish for course crew. Guess why you can't cross the finish? Because you will mess up the timing for whoever is racing on course! Oh, man, can you just see me forgetting that and slipping sideways through the finish and blowing Julia Mancuso's time? NERVOUS!)

The exit is ALSO nothing but a little icy bobsled run between two tight fences, so there is no room for error, and if you fall here, you are going to wreck in front of everyone in the stands, and make a huge pile up behind you of course workers that are coming flying off the course themselves. When Katie led me into the exit, and I saw for a split second that it was narrow, windy and icy, I was really nervous, I just learned to ski on hard-pack last spring, got a second go round at it in Hood in August, but this was HARD CORE ice. Thank god it was relatively low angle at this point, and my skis were just about as sharp as they could be after the monster tuning session the night before!

I took a breath and took off after Katie, who has been on the National Alpine Demo Team for two terms, and is now in her second term after THAT as the Teams Manager (that's 13 years for those of you who are counting...) and who did the stunt skiing for Bryce Kellog in the movie "Aspen Extreme".

Okay, this girl can SKI. I watched her tails and just pretended I wasn't scared out of my mind, concentrating on making the same super short, athletic turns she was making out of this little corkscrew exit. And I did it! My training at Academy and Dave Lyon's race camp had paid off, and with Katie leading me and actually SKIING it, I wasn't hesitant, I just followed and skied. I was elated. I had no idea I'd be able to actively ski something that icy and tight without blowing up completely. And not only did I ski it, I skied it well, and it was FUN! WHAT?? Am I suddenly from VERMONT? Skiing on ice was FUN? Thank god, because I'd have to go out of that exit another dozen times at least, and it was only going to get slicker!

The second go-round, the slip crews were with their group leaders, the racers were in the restaurant, the fore-runners at the start, the stands were full, the TV Cameras were on, and it was time for Katie and I to get into place. We headed out onto the course, which was much slicker now that the crews had been sliding it for the last four and a half hours, and I'm watching Katie sliding effortlessly over a very blue, bumpy, slick patch on the steepest pitch of the course. She points back up at it and yells out "Careful, keep moving!" and I think, "I got this, I did it before." I hit the ice, slide about five feet, get on my uphill ski, and I'm done for. Down on my butt I go, and my mind is racing, what do I do, what do I do?

You can't do a typical self-arrest, especially if you are skiing without poles, like we were, and I don't want to be on my butt a second longer, because I am gaining speed. Still in a pretty good position, I decide to risk high-siding and slam my edges into the slope. Lucky me, I pop right back up onto my feet and hear Dennis's voice in my head, "Squeeze your butt and flex your knees, stay on that downhill ski and just go with it, because you ain't gonna slow down, got it?"

Got it.

I slide down to Katie, kinda proud that I'm not just sliding at a hundred miles an hour on my ass through the finish line, and she grins up at me. "How ya doin', Kate?"

"Oh, fine, I just thought I'd sit down there for a minute. I'm good." She nods, and off she goes again.

photo by FISWe find a great place to set up, the snow is falling again, and there are concerns about getting the camera wet, staying out of the way of coaches and athletes, making sure we aren't in a "spill zone"...

The day before, Dennis and Squatty had explained it carefully to me, a spill zone is where, looking up at the gates from below, were a skier to fall, where would the trajectory of their fall plus the fall line of the hill take them? It makes a path about 35 degrees wide, which you need to figure in to where you are standing, because looking through a viewfinder, if a World Cup Athlete going 50 miles an hour on ice boots out and heads your way, you are going to function like an airbag for them, and end up in a pile in the fence.

So, you know, no pressure. Katie says, "Oh, look! Ron LeMaster! Well, lets go stand with him, he kind of knows what he is doing..." Finally, for the first time, I actually know who someone is, this is the man who wrote The Skier's Edge, amongst other great books, and he's currently working on a new UPDATED book, which will be out in the spring. Yes, he kind of knows what he's doing!!

We spent the morning chatting, and Katie got the camera dialed just right, catching the first 15 skiers as they went ripping down the course.

The activity on the course was incredibly intense, there are guys with rakes, shovels, gate judges, slip crews, coaches, support for the teams, guys with drills three feet long everywhere, radios going off, and suddenly, down the course comes the call "Course!"

If you hear this, your job is to move your ass if you are on the course because here they COME, or, if you are on the side and out of a spill zone, stand really still and do your job without distracting anyone or cutting of their line of site.

Katie talked me through the whole process as the snow continued to fall and the Ski School slip crews started slipping in super fast mode. To get from one "slip station" to the next, they had to go as fast and accurately as they could sideways, pushing the accumulating snow away from the gates, leaving the course as polished as they could get it. And get off the course again before the next racer was on top of them. At this moment, I was awfully grateful to be standing still with a camera rather than side slipping in front of the world on the ice!

Suddenly, there's a delay in the action, and down the hill comes a red jacket, a racer had fallen up the course, and it was a ski patroler with a sled. The tail gunner in the back looked vaguely familiar, and as the team went by, straight down the fall line to clear the course as fast as they could, I realized that the guy in the back was wearing a Ski School jacket! "Hey, that's a ski school guy!" I pointed out to Ron.

"Geeze, they are HAULING!" said Ron as the team flew past us and out of sight. I found out later that it was Kurt Fehrenbach, who filled in at the last second, and went for the ride of his life on the back of the sled.

"I asked if Eric, the patrol guy, if he needed a tail gunner, and at the last second, he said, sure, so I jumped on the back. We got trained to fill in in an emergency, so I knew what I was supposed to do, but I had NO idea he was going to take off like that! We went flying straight down the fall line on the side, hitting piles of soft snow and ripping over the ice. These guys are good, and I'm hangin' on for dear life, trying to keep tension on the line in the back so the sled won't bounce. What a ride!" Kurt told us later.

As I'm hearing this story, I'm thinking about the fact that Kurt is, you know, a pretty decent skier, having been on the last National Alpine Demonstration Team for four years, and is an accomplished ski mountaineer. Once again, I'm struck by the speed and intensity of the race environment.

After the top 15 women went ripping past us, Katie had to leave, and I was on my own. For the rest of the day, I filmed and watched, making my way down the course several times to find new angles to film from, and watching the seamless machine that Mike and Squatty had pulled together. There were two nervous moments, one when two volunteer slippers fell on the course, as the call came down "COURSE!" and the skier crested the hill, the slippers were still on course, near the gates, sitting down, trying to get out of the way. "COURSE! COURSE!" everyone was yelling, and the guys got out of the way about two turns before Julia Mancuso ripped by them, and one when a dog ran out near the finish line as a skier was just crossing, but luckily, there was no accident.

Teenager Tessa Worley of France won her maiden World Cup victory in a giant slalom on Saturday, her first ever World Cup victory, and the first victory for France in nine years. That night, we walked into downtown Aspen and watched the amazing fireworks display in celebration of the victory, and headed over to the Sky Bar, where the French Team was celebrating.

"Vive la France!" Kurt called out to his friend Griecia, a French American instructor who splits his time between Chamonix and Aspen. "YEAH!!!! VIVE LA FRANCE!" Griecia smiled back, bought us beer, kissed us on both cheeks, and the night was begun. The night ended late with Tequila and a little Mambo at the Ski Tuner's Ball, and we finally rode our bikes (in the frozen, slushy snow) home, exhausted, realizing that it was snowing again, and we'd need to be on course at 5am to do it all over again.

For the next day and a half, I stood on the course, wondering how in the world this was me, my life. I was stowing my skis and pack under the fence, checking spill zone, putting on crampons, and filming about 10 feet off the gate as the best women in the world skied right by me.

I got to meet and visit with coaches from the Canadian and Swiss teams, listen to them coach their athletes on the radio, watch the incredible machine that is the course crew in action, and do a bit of side slipping myself.

When it was all said and done the 500+ volunteers and employees necessary to make the race run were exhausted from five days of back breaking work in high winds and blowing snow, and I had a total of 18 minutes of skiing footage.

photo by FISOn my final trip down the course, I looked forward to skiing out the exit, inspired by the clean, aggressive skiing I had seen that day, and without a Katie to follow, made my own little brand of sporty short turns down the icy exit cute and into the crowd. World champion Czech Sarka Zahrobska beat a strong field and howling winds to win her first World Cup slalom right in front of me.

When it was all said and done, I think we got SOME usable footage, although on Sunday it was blowing sideways, and the camera was wet and freezing, as was my camera hand, and I was blissfully happy.

Thank you, Mike, Squatty, Megan, Katie, and Georgie for letting me be a part of the crew and for getting me up there on the course, it was the experience of a lifetime!